WINTERBERG, Germany - Erin Hamlin of the United States fought through snowfall and blowing snow to finish sixth Sunday in a World Cup luge women's race.
The 2009 world champion and two-time Olympian finished 1.1 seconds off the pace as this winter sports hub in northern Germany lived up to its name with biting cold conditions during the training week, before warmer temperatures and snowfall arrived on the weekend.
"It was snowing a little bit," Hamlin said. "But the wind was blowing it everywhere and it looked like a blizzard at times. The track crew swept the start the whole time. The course was a lot faster all week in training. I was going faster in training that I did in last year's race."
Once again it was Germany that blew through the competition on home ice as the German women captured their 100th consecutive tour event dating back to 1997. They celebrated afterward with a special victory cake that was baked prior to the race.
The second half of Sunday's doubleheader - by then, the snowfall was dense - saw the home team complete the sweep as Germany captured the team relay with the U.S. fourth.
The relay event is bidding for inclusion by the International Olympic Committee into the 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Olympics.
Tatyana Huefner, 2010 Olympic champion, won for the second straight week and led a 1-2-4-5 singles finish for her team. Huefner leads the overall World Cup standings with 200 points.
Hamlin, a Remsen native, showed her considerable driving skills after falling behind in each heat at the top. Giving approximately .1 of a second to the leaders on a flat start ramp, Hamlin gained speed at each interval and literally drove her way up the ranks on the challenging 1,293 meter-long, 15 curve Winterberg course.
"Overall my start is better than it's been," Hamlin said. "But the flat start here is not ideal for me. Then there's a weird, small curve to negotiate (after the start), but I've got that down pretty good."
The American is tied for third place on the campaign with Anke Wischnewski, of Germany, at 120 points. Wischnewski took fourth Sunday.
Huefner, now with 23 tour victories, clocked the best heats of the day with 57.654 and 57.015 seconds for a total of 1 minute, 54.669 seconds. She was showered with champagne upon crossing the finish line.
Only Alex Gough of Canada was able to interrupt the Germans as she achieved the best World Cup result of her career with the bronze medal. Gough was fourth in the 2009 world championships. Ironically, Gough and her Canadian teammates, anxious to compete in Calgary, Alberta next week, are guided by two former members of the German coaching staff.
Natalie Geisenberger of Germany was a distant second despite a first-heat start record. The Vancouver Olympic bronze medal winner, second overall with 170 points, was .6 of a second off the pace in 1:55.283. She was runner-up for the second time on the young season. Gough was another .13 back in 1:55.411. Hamlin's final time was 1:55.785.
The U.S. team showed depth in placing three in the top 15 as 2002 Olympian Ashley Walden of Westborough, Mass. and Lake Placid finished 12th in 1:56.704, with 2010 Olympian Julia Clukey 14th at 1:56.852.
Walden is seventh on the season with 87 points, while Clukey is tied for 13th with 62.
"The snow and wind made for difficult conditions," said U.S. Program Director Mark Grimmette. "Erin and Julia had good second runs, but Ashley had some time killers in both heats."
Huefner combined with David Moeller, second in Saturday's men's singles race, and the winning doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, to grab the team relay for the second consecutive week. The three sleds combined for a time of 2:26.594.
Italy was second in 2:27.037 as the Saturday men's winner, Armin Zoeggeler, was not in action despite his 50th career triumph 24 hours earlier. Austria took third in 2:27.152.
The U.S. foursome of Hamlin, Bengt Walden of Lake Placid, and Saturday's World Cup bronze medal-winning doubles team of Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman were clinging to the bronze medal position with only Germany remaining to race.
Unfortunately, the Yanks felt the effect of the German juggernaut which stormed through the field and bumped the Americans from the podium, .24 of a second from third.
Germany is first in the team relay standings with 200 points. Italy is next at 155. Canada stands third on 135. The U.S. is deadlocked with Latvia for fifth with 110.
The third and fourth World Cup meets bring the circuit to North America before the holiday break. Events take place in Calgary Dec. 10-11, followed by Park City, Utah Dec. 17-18.